Fifty-six years after India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation for the Sardar Sarovar Dam over the Narmada river, the project was finally inaugurated by Narendra Modi— the 15th Prime Minister— on Sunday.
The dam, which is the second biggest in the world after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States, however, was in the news for the several delays and legal roadblocks that the project faced especially in the last three decades.
Amid the political slugfest between BJP and the Congress to seek credit for the project, it is still unclear on how much of the project is actually complete.
According to a report in The Hindu, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) recently gave the approval for closing the dam gates.
The report stated that the NCA allowed the authorites to raise the dam’s height by lowering on 30 gates, which will help in the completion of the project.
Together with raising the dam's height, the decision will also help in increasing the dam’s storage capacity from 1,565 million cubic metres (MCM) to 5,740 MCM and also increase hydro power generation from the current 1,300 MW to 1,450 MW.
However, the Congress on Sunday claimed that around 80 percent of the work, especially on linking various canals was still incomplete.
The party said that water had reached only three lakh hectares out of the planned irrigation of 19 lakh hectares, and asked whether the BJP government and Modi will apologise to Gujarat farmers.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala added that only 18,803 kilometre of canal network was constructed in the 22 years of BJP rule against planned length of 90,389 kilometres.
The official documents validated part of the allegation leveled by the Congress.
The dam is officially complete, as it now stands at 138 metres: the original height that the Modi government wanted. The main canal is also complete, the data showed. However, as the Congress pointed out, it is the minor canals that are yet to be completed. Out of the 71,748 kilometres of the canal system that have been approved, only 49,313 kilometres are completed. This means nearly 30 percent of the canal system is yet to be completed.
The data also showed that due to the incomplete canal network, the irrigation potential of the system is yet to reach its full level.
While the authorities expect to cover nearly over 36 lakh hectares for irrigation, through minor and sub-minor canals, only a little over 25 lakh hectares have been covered so far.
According to the Gujarat government, "Assured water supply will soon make the area benefiting from the dam drought proof."
The project is also expected to help alleviate the problem of drinking water.
"All the villages and urban centres of arid region of Saurashtra and Kachchh and all 'no source' villages and the villages affected by salinity and fluoride in North Gujarat will be benefited. Water supply requirement of several industries will also be met from the project giving a boost to all-round production," the website noted.
The dam will also be a major source of power generation for the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The power from two power houses of 1200 MW and 250 MW respectively will be split this way: Madhya Pradesh - 57 percent, Maharashtra - 27 percent and Gujarat 16 percent.
However, the whole project has been in the eye of the storm over the negative impact it would have on the local tribals in the region.
Thousands of families along the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh's Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts are at risk of getting displaced with the closing of gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam in neighboring Gujarat and resultant rise in the water level in its catchment area.
However, during his address at a rally, Modi took potshots at those who opposed it, which includes many environment and human rights activists.
"No other project in the world has faced such hurdles as the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river. But we were determined to complete the project," Many conspired against Sardar Sarovar Dam project, even World Bank refused funding," the Prime Minister said.
"I have knowledge ('kacha chittha') of everyone who tried to stall this project, but I will not name them as I do not want to go on that route," Modi said.
"A massive misinformation campaign was launched against the project. The World Bank which had earlier agreed to fund the project, refused to give loan for it raising environmental concerns. But, with or without the World Bank, we completed the massive project on our own," Modi added.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Sep 18, 2017 17:18:30 IST